Saturday, May 17, 2008

unexpected road food

We arrive home to green, cool, and wet. Now for several days we have had strong, clear sun. We are constantly on the look out for wild road food. It’s the season for fiddlehead ferns and wild leeks, allium tricoccum, or ramps as we call them here in Vermont. The name ramps comes from the Old English hramsa. In West Virginia, they also call them ramsons. They are the national vegetable of Wales, and they are protected and almost extinct in Quebec. Here, in Vermont, they are one of our wild food spring jewels, and grow in wet, moist areas. They are a member of both the onion and the lily family. We look along creek beds and hillsides. We know not to pick lily-of-the-valley which look very similar, but are poisonous and smell sweet. There is another plant here with broad lily-like leaves that's not lily-of-the-valley that always fools us. We’ll see a patch from the road, and shout, “Stop! Look!” But then after closer inspection, we’ll see they are not wild leeks, and move on. We are lways hopeful.

It comes as a big surprise when we are driving north and see those blade-like green leaves. A sea of them. We both think to ourselves that we must have seen a mirage. “Were those leeks?” Caleb asks. “I don’t know? Do you think those were leeks?” I answer. We turn around. They are indeed wild leeks, a treasure trove of wild leeks. We are not prepared, but go to work anyway with sticks and bare hands collecting a beautiful bagful. We go back the next day with trowels and buckets. We are rich in wild leeks. For some reason, the car smells like a Vietnamese restaurant.

We eat them in a frittata filled with a friend’s new sheep’s milk ricotta. We eat them fried up in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. They are slightly crispy and sweet. We serve them in a risotto, bulbs and leaves, at the restaurant.


No comments: